Not much gravity to the situation
We live in an age of heroes. Well no, okay, maybe we don’t in real life. But in video games, the age of the hero shooter is most certainly upon us. Last year’s Overwatch popularized what games life Team Fortress once started, and everything from MOBAs like Battleborn to single-player adventures like the recent Agents of Mayhem wants a slice of the pie. The somewhat zany, cartoonish casts of characters in games right now are becoming a huge selling point. In comes LawBreakers, which tries to capture that same uniqueness and creates some pretty fun gameplay, but has a tough time finding a distinct identity.
LawBreakers is an all-multiplayer affair, like so many of its brethren. For the price tag, you get a pretty good package. Quick play means access to a number of different play modes. There’s Blitzball, where two teams have to fight over control of a sphere and get it back to their base. Then there’s Uplink, where two teams fight over control of a satellite to bring back to their base, and Overcharge, where players fight over control over…you get the idea. The more unique mode from the other three is Turf War, a capture zone mode made variable by capture points that change around pretty quickly. Maybe too quickly, actually.
Modes of travel
The central twist n LawBreakers is the idea that mobility can be every bit as essential as gunplay and balanced specials. That factor shows its face in the form of an antigravity field cast over the center chunk of every arena, casting everyone into a floaty-mode that instantaneously changes the combat dynamic. And it’s cool. I’d even go so far as to say the physics of it work really well. It takes some getting used to, because it’s the presence of gravity followed by the sudden lack thereof, but it feels really good to drift around cover and take shots at foes once the flow is felt.
Unfortunately, less synchronized in that flow is the language of character design to level design. Each character is equipped with some kind of dash button. For the steadfast Juggernaut, it’s a consistent quickened pace. The twitchy Vanguard gets a huge jet-boost, and the slow and indomitable Titan gets a chargeable leaping strike. And they needed to have these things, in a game that seems so built around quick movement and navigation. But at the same time, the standard movement speed for just about every character is still kind of slow. Not too slow for any game, but too slow for what it seems like LawBreakers is trying to be.
The speed issue is an issue in part because of the health issue. Oh, yes. There’s a health issue. Weapon strength is potent enough across basically all boards that every character turns into something in the range of a 2-to-4-hit kill. That doesn’t feel like enough. Antigravity means more space for everyone to become a target. It also means more space for people to dodge, but only so much as their speed allows. Those dashes are only apt enough to be an advantage for some characters. It seems like the roster as a whole needs one of three things: more health, more speed, or some weapon nerfs all around.
Fighting and style
To it’s credit, LawBreakers does a pretty good job with its visual presentation and sense of style. Each class will translate to one of two characters, depending on whether the player has been sorted into the team of the Law or that of the Breakers. All of them have their own dialogue and some really neat and unique designs. The game takes on a pseudo-realistic cyberpunk look, as opposed to the CGI Pixar-style that’s all the rage right now. It pulls that off just fine. There are some places where I feel like I’m not getting the joke. The overly-comedic voice of the BlitzBall comes to mind as a place where the idea of charm feels forced. For the most part, though, LawBreakers has some cool style to it.
Less solid and consistent, though, are the game’s servers. Matchmaking fluctuates between reasonable to taking forever, and the latter is becoming the case more and more often already. If anything can wear the crown of being LawBreakers’ biggest threat, it’s the fact that whatever semblance of community it had may already be dwindling. In the couple days leading up to this review, I sat and waited for as much as 15 minutes without getting sorted into a match. Part of this might have to do with matches going long, to be fair. But a huge part of it likely also has to do with people already dropping out.
Once you get into a match, though, LawBreakers can have some really fun moments, even with the imbalance. Three out of four modes are extremely similar. I don’t the game can be pardoned for this. But none of them are utter garbage. I think that the capture points in Turf War change too quickly to allow much time for strategizing. Often, it just comes down to luck of the draw for whoever happens to be closest to where they move. It’s a bit disappointing that the most unique of the four game modes is the least well-built.
Laws remaining intact
LawBreakers is good. But it doesn’t feel polished to the level that frequent online shooter players have come to expect. It’s character design philosophy is often at odds with the design of its levels and game modes, and while that doesn’t completely bite away at the fun, it does do damage to what is otherwise a technically well-conceived package. It hasn’t done too great a job of finding a unique identity for itself within its world, but it’s trying with guns blazing. I may go down too quickly to do much, but throwing up a defensive wall as the Juggernaut and turning around to lay waste to foes coming in from above still carries a certain kind of sweetness.
Final verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: Playstation 4 (reviewed), PC; Publisher: Nexon ; Developer: Boss Key Productions; Players: 1-10 ; Released: August 8th, 2017 ; ESRB: T for Teen ; MSRP: $29.99